Monday, 30 November 2009

St. Andrew's Day.......

The 30th November is St. Andrew's Day.......patron saint of Scotland.

Traditionally, on this day, Scots enjoy a meal of haggis, champit tatties and bashed neeps, washed down with a dram (or two) of a good single malt.

And this Scot will be doing no different.


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Global domination..........

I seem to have inadvertently acquired 52 followers.

I have become very lax in welcoming new followers, for which I apologise, as if you take the time to read this blog, the least I should do is extend a warm welcome.

So welcome all new followers. I've also been looking in some detail at the countries from where people are 'dipping in'.

60 countries!!!

I am amazed.

And curious.

For example how did the visitor from the Republic of Moldova discover this blog.

Or Serbia, Uruguay, or Bulgaria.

Moving up the rankings, I've had visits from residents of Korea, China and Mexico.

True aficionados with visits in the hundreds come from as far afield as Canada, New Zealand and the US.

As a boney fido amateur cartographer, I could spend hours trying to match up the little red dots with actual places on the map.

I am particularly intrigued to know who has visited from the red centre of Australia. If you're reading this, do get in touch and let me know where you are. I'm worried in case you're lost in the desert and used the last few minutes of your mobile phone battery trying (unsuccessfully) to find a SatNav map on the internet. Although if that was the case, you are probably past saving.

Similarly, other followers/readers from far flung corners of the globe....... leave a comment or drop me an email. I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Lazy Saturdays and How to Banish the Blues........

I have had a supremely lazy day today, nesting on the sofa watching old films on TV.

The weather this past week has been horrendous.....thunderstorms most nights, driving wind and torrential rain. What little light there has been during the days has been grey and depressing.

So in an effort to banish the blues, I have taken the plunge and ordered myself a SAD light therapy pod which hopefully should arrive on Monday. I then need to spend about an hour each day soaking up the 10,000 lux lightwaves, which will throw a switch in my brain and release more of the mood enhancing hormone serotonin, while simultaneously decreasing production of the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin.

Well that's the theory anyway.

My 'light therapy' can be taken at any time during the day, while working or relaxing and I'm looking forward to giving it a go. I know from experience that a run of grey, dismal days will result in my craving sleep and feeling very low, while bright, sunny days lift my spirits and increase my energy levels, so it certainly can't hurt.

I've been promising myself one for years and years, but it has always felt like an unnecessary extravagance. However since practically the whole of November has been dismal, and we still have to endure the dark days of winter, I decided to bite the bullet and go ahead.

With any luck, by this time next week I shall be bounding round like a spring lamb..........

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Oh what a tangled web(site)......

I have spent the past 5 hours deep in the inner, secret workings of the Diminutive Dolls website.

It was sorely in need of a good clearout and tidy up before I could begin the process of uploading new listings, but I'm always a bit wary of messing about in there in case I inadvertently pull the plug on the virtual life support system. I've had a few close calls in the past, most notably deleting the home page which disappeared in a puff of smoke leaving not a trace, and eventually I had to enlist the help of a tech bod to sort it out. Fortunately it was a mistake anyone could have made due to 'fault in the code'. But that 'anyone' just happened to be me.

So nowadays I tiptoe around in there, just in case.......

Fortunately there were no mishaps today. However it took what felt like forever to clean out redundant product listings, tidy up the categories etc etc etc. After a while I enter a trance like state, when the endlessly repetitive processes lull me almost to sleep.

I've had enough for today though. There's only so much website maintenance I can stand in one day and I've exceeded my quota. However there are now several new toys listed on the site, with more to come when I can work up the energy and/or enthusiasm.

As this week has progressed I have been feeling more, rather than less tired. Presumably the cumulative effect of 8 weeks relentlessly long working days and the associated stress of having two fairs in the space of two weeks.

I have a niggly, naggly, sparkly headache licking at the fringes of my peripheral vision, which has the potential for blooming into a full-blown migraine. Not to mention a looming cold sore, which may or may not send all its mates an invitation to a party on my top lip, regardless of the liberal application of precautionary anti-viral cream.

Run down? Moi?


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dental trauma........

I had a check-up at the dentist this afternoon.

Thankfully, everything toothwise was OK, and nothing needed doing, which was a relief, but my head and mouth are still jangling from the drilly/poky thing he used to scale and polish. Also he put the chair so far back that my head was lower than my feet so I went all swimmy.

For some obscure reason he had two dental nurses/assistants and they were chatting away to each other non-stop the whole time, not paying the slightest attention to what they were supposed to be doing. So the one who should have been watching what she was doing with the squirty water and suction tubes in my mouth was completely distracted and the tubes were everywhere except where they should be. At one point the squirty water tube was so far down my throat I thought I was going to drown, and the suction tube got stuck on my face.

Eventually, after I gagged on the squirty water tube, the dentist told her off, but not before I was at at point where I wanted to grab both tubes and ram them down HER throat.

Hastings town centre is wall-to-wall Christmas but there was precious little festive cheer to be had. In the shopping centre there is an animatronic Santa's Grotto already juddering away, and outside in the square what looks like two wooden sheds have been erected for no discernible purpose. Surely they can't intend to shatter childhood illusions by having TWO competing grottoes, complete with twin Santas!

It's been a horrid, grey, cold, wet, windy day, yet again and the house feels very dark.
Sod carbon footprints, I want every downstairs light on in an attempt to banish the gloom.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Moving swiftly on...........

Back to work with a vengeance today....orders to package, invoices to process, so no time as yet to get to grips with restocking the website.

However, to balance my deficiencies in that department, a vital element of one of my forthcoming projects has unexpectedly fallen into place, thanks to the wondrous Freecycle.

To explain..... our workroom is a reasonable size but our office/study is tiny and subsequently crammed chock-a-block full of all the office paraphernalia required to run a small business.

We already have a rather lovely solid wood pedestal desk and two matching filing cabinets, but they are really too big for the tiny space. PP has the use of the desk for the office computer, but for the past six years I have been forced to work at my laptop on a very small, flimsy folding tray table, only marginally bigger than the laptop, crammed uncomfortably into a small area in front of one of the filing cabinets. As a result I have nowhere to lay out books, papers, notebooks etc, so they usually end up in a teetering pile on the floor.

Quite why I have endured this situation for 6 years I cannot fathom, but as of now I have had enough and have petitioned for a complete re-organisation of the room so that I can have some proper desk space. To this end, we will be relocating the desk and filing cabinets elsewhere in the house and replacing them with one large desk which will fit all along one wall in the office and allow both of us space to work properly. We will also be doing away with a tall bookcase which is always overflowing with stuff, and replacing it with something sleek and streamlined, with drawers and cupboards, within which all the dispossessed 'stuff' can be hidden out of sight.

While we're at it, the scruffy old carpet will have to go and we might slap a few coats of paint on the walls to freshen them up a bit. I have a vision of a neat and tidy office, much more conducive to creative endeavour than the current unholy guddle.

So..... when PP saw that someone on Freecycle was giving away a large beech topped desk this morning, fortunately she spotted it and was able to respond within the 'golden 15 seconds' before the world and his brother saw it too.
Measurements were requested and supplied and miraculously, it appeared that it would fit perfectly into the space available. So we arranged to go and have a look.

10 minutes later we were unsuccessfully struggling to fit one large, unassembled desk into our tiny car. The legs and back panel fitted in fine, but the desktop wouldn't fit no matter which configuration we tried.

20 minutes later we had returned home to get the campervan in order to retrieve the desktop.

30 minutes later we had successfully unloaded the desktop, plus legs etc and it is now leaning up against the wall in the dining room, pending further developments.

Of course in order to establish the new desk in situ, the old one will have to be emptied, drawer by drawer, and all the extraneous stuff dispensed with. Ditto the four drawers of the filing cabinets, in which there are invoices, accounts and tax stuff going back decades, and which I can probably safely dispose of. Ditto the bookcase, the whole bottom shelf of which holds several hundred vinyl LPs which may themselves find their way onto Freecycle in due course.

However, I can sort through a drawer or shelf each day for the next week or so, by which time we may have reached some agreement about the relocation of the desk.

Another positive knock-on effect is that we are both going to get new office chairs. Plush and comfortable, ergonomically designed with proper back support and everything!

I am sooooo looking forward to having a lovely, sparkling, uncluttered office space. Best of all, in the process, I get to visit stationery/office stores (my secret guilty pleasure!) in search of new chairs and useful, coordinated, storage and stationery organisers.

Be still my beating heart...........I LOVE STATIONERY!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Sold out city...........


I've just finished going through all our stock boxes, made a list of what we still have, and spent a while going through the website systematically removing toys which we sold on Saturday.

As a result, the website now looks very bare, so tomorrow my primary task will be to upload as many of the remaining new toys which hadn't been listed on the website in advance of the last two fairs.

These will include several new exotic animal pullalong toys, a boy's magic set and a really fantastic boy's toy tool set, as well as some new handpainted puppets, wicker prams and a selection of boxed Jumeau style doll's dolls.

Also, over the past two weeks since the Charmandean Fair, only the bare minimum of housework has been done, as we have been heads down working hard towards KDF. I looked around this morning as if I had awoken from a dream and the house looks as though it's been ransacked. So some major clearing up and clearing out is also the order of the day. I can't believe how messy and unkempt everywhere looks..... especially the workroom and the office.

I'm hoping that rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck into some clearing and cleaning will be cathartic, as I can put my brain in neutral and give some serious thought to moving on to new things. I can then sit down in a (hopefully) tidy, sparkling clean room and sketch out a plan of campaign for my new projects, about which I'm really, REALLY excited.

Back in the land of the living......just

What a weekend!

I've had to have two long sleeps to recover from Saturday and although I still feel a tad fragile today, I'm fortunately much less zombiefied than yesterday.

Saturday was both wonderful and awful.

Wonderful in that we did amazingly, jaw-droppingly, eye-poppingly well. By mid afternoon we were staring at each other in disbelief and the customers just kept coming.... and coming.... and coming!

It was like travelling back in time to the heydays of miniatures fairs, perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, when the melee around each stand was 6-deep, and customers were literally throwing money across the top of other people's heads in order to bag a coveted miniature. If I hadn't known better I would have thought I had slipped back into the Twilight Zone.

Despite the weather, long queues built up outside Kensington Town Hall long before the fair opened at 10.30. As soon as the doors opened the Main Hall seemed to fill up very quickly, and within 15 minutes we were submerged under a deluge of collectors, intent on serious spending.
We didn't stop all day.........I didn't even have time for any of our delicious lunch as wave after wave of really enthusiastic buyers besieged our stand.

People were still flooding in up until lunchtime and the crowds were astonishing. From our vantage point up on the stage the whole of the Main Hall was a seething mass of people. Apart from a very quick dash before the show opened, to pick up some essential materials for my next project, I wasn't able to venture out from behind our stand all day.

The awful bit began at 5.30, after we'd packed down the stand, headed down into the car park, loaded up the car and set off home.
What had been a straightforward 2 hour journey in the morning, turned into a nightmare 4 hour marathon, in horrendous traffic (it took us 45 minutes to travel just the few miles from Kensington High Street to get back over the river) then driving wind and rain. Roads turned into rivers and at some points we were forced to drive through mini lakes of water which had pooled in dips in the road.

4 hours to travel 69 miles. Nightmare!

We arrived home at 9.30, absolutely exhausted and traumatised by the journey back. After wearily unloading the car we didn't even have enough energy to cook dinner and resorted to eating our lunch instead. It was all I could do to struggle upstairs and fall into bed.

Yesterday I could hardly move. I ached in places I didn't even know I had. The limit of my effort was to make a cosy nest on the sofa and snuggle down with Small Dog to watch films on TV.


So, today will be a day for very gentle pottering. We haven't even touched the fair boxes yet, which are still in the hall where we left them on Saturday night. They're filled with mostly empty boxes so I have to sort through what remains and remove whole swathes of miniatures which have been sold, from the website.

The weather today is still horrendous.....driving wind and torrential rain so that is a perfect excuse (if one were needed!) to stay indoors and recuperate further.

In other news, I have the luxury of a whole 88 days till our next fair.

Woo, and indeed, hoo!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Stop press..............

Just back from shopping for our lunches tomorrow. Tesco was absolutely heaving, and to add to the throng there were various fund-raising efforts for Children in Need going on. I hate doing food shopping on Fridays but we like to push the boat out a bit on fair days, and treat ourselves to a special lunch-time menu so we had no choice.

Tomorrow we will have Chargrilled Chicken, Bacon and Pasta Salad; Layered Cheese Mixed Salad; Brie, Cranberry and Rocket sandwiches; Roast Beef Salad & Horseradish Sauce sandwiches. Put like that it does sound like a lot but we will be leaving home at 6am and won't get back till around 8-ish in the evening (if we're lucky!) so it's going to be a long day and we will need to keep our energy levels up.

In other news, I've been quite distracted over the past day or so, and although I was vaguely aware that PP was busy making something, I wasn't paying much attention to what it was. So it was a lovely surprise when she unveiled this earlier today....

That little wicker cart is just gorgeous! It's lined with pink leather and has plenty of room in the back for a selection of tiny toys. In the front there is a sweet little raised leather seat for the driver. My contribution was the lamb's silk roses hat in various shades of pink, to coordinate with the cart. I'm secretly hoping it doesn't sell tomorrow as I'd love to snaffle it for my toy shop. It would look fantastic in the window, with the cart full of toys.

So, early night tonight. Every alarm in the house set to go off at 5am *middle of the night*.
Small Dog will most likely stay in her bed until her sitter arrives, and will thereafter submit to being mollycoddled in our absence.

It's a dog's life..........

KDF information......

The friendly countdown timer on my desktop informs me that there is just 1 day left till KDF.

Normally at this point I'd be locked in my own private hell, racing against time to complete just one more miniature toy while simultaneously packing and trying to do a multitude of other essential fair-related tasks.

But not this time.

No by no nonny no.

I'm not sure whether that bodes well or not.

Either way it's a refreshing novelty. Yes there are still a few bits and pieces to do. I might print out a few more brochures. We have to go shopping for tomorrow's lunch and finalise our travel route.

But trust me, those are as nothing to the chaos which normally reigns at this point in the proceedings. D'you think that belatedly, after over 20 years of exhibiting at miniatures fairs, I might finally have cracked it?

This will be our final exhibition of 2009, and plans are already afoot for exciting new projects for next year. I'll share them with you in more detail next week, after the dust has settled.

However, as you probably know, after the end of this year we will no longer be selling our character porcelain doll kits. So we will be taking a selection of Clearance Sale kits with us tomorrow. This will be a final opportunity to see them 'in the flesh' and snap up a bargain in the process. We probably won't have space on our stand to display them all, so if you're interested, just ask to have a look in the box.

Today, I also have the unaccustomed luxury of time to compile my own shopping list, with new projects in mind. However, whether I will have time tomorrow to leave the stand in PP's capable hands and go walkabout is anyone's guess...

Thursday, 19 November 2009


You know what they say.

The devil makes work for idle hands.

I've been messing about with my blog settings for the past 20 minutes, and for one awful, stomach-churning moment, I thought I'd inadvertently deleted the whole thing!

Thankfully that is not the case. Unless I'm back in the Twilight Zone and this is all happening in my imagination, and there has never been a blog to delete in the first place......

Anyway, I've done a bit of tidying up. Put up a new header. Swept out some of the cobwebs etc.

I'm going to stop messing about now though, otherwise something irrevocable will happen and I'll never forgive myself.

The Twilight Zone.........

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. it is the middle ground between light and shadow between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call- the Twilight Zone.

Yeahahknow. I'm in it right now. Just to the left of the pit of man's fears.

I am never, EVER, this ready, this far in advance of a major fair.

It is completely unhead of. Never been done. That is how I know I have slipped into an alternative dimension.

If I weren't in the Twilight Zone I would be hobbling around like a headless chicken, tripping over boxes, swearing like a trooper, inefectually flapping about trying to get organised.

Instead I am in an oasis of calm. Everything is done and packed.

It's really, really scary and I want to get out......

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Today has not been a good day.

This morning I had to be at the hospital for a regular appointment with the MS nurse. These usually follow a fairly well-trodden course.........

MSN: Hello Sandra, good to see you again, come in, come in.....sit down. So how've you been.......still got MS then?
Hmmm, that's a bit of a bugger isn't it.............

Actually, although I'm slightly exaggerating for comic effect, that is pretty much the tenet of the conversation. However, to be fair, she suggests various things I might like to try for the panoply of symptoms which have cropped up since our last meeting, and I try to sort out the wheat from the chaff. We are actually incredibly lucky to have a specialist MS nurse in Hastings. Many areas of the country don't.

Anyway, this morning was rather different. On my way to the Neurology Dept, which is in the bowels of the building, I was near the top of one of the flights of stairs when I lost my footing, grabbed hold of the handrail to stop myself tumbling down the steps, and twisted round on my left leg. Aside from the shock of almost falling, the pain in my knee was sudden and breathtaking. After regaining my dignity and composure, I slowly completed my descent without further incident, but it became apparent as I was hobbling along the endless corridors that I'd probably wrenched my kneecap out of place.

The MS nurse, bless her, helped me into her consulting room and did an impromptu examination. Sitting down it didn't hurt at all, and she decided that it was unlikely anything was broken, but strongly suggested that I pop back up to A&E to spend the rest of the day waiting to have it assessed properly. I knew nothing was broken. I wouldn't have been able to walk at all if it were. As I was resistant to taking the A&E option she recommended strapping the knee, taking painkillers, and if it wasn't improved in 24hours to have it checked out.

So I entered the hospital feeling relatively OK and emerged an hour later hobbling like an old woman.

Typical! Two days before a major exhibition too......... brilliant timing Sandra!

Small Dog is sniggering behind her paw and I'm sure I heard her refer to me as 'hopalong' earlier. So much for sympathy and an offer of the 'healing paw'.

I'm off to put my feet up and perhaps imbibe some liquid pain relief *hic*

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Point of no return Tuesday..........

Today is the point of no return, and I have to accept that I'm not going to get everything on my 'to do' list completed in time for Saturday.

In reality I have just two 'making days' left, as Thursday and Friday will be taken up with the 3P's - printing, pricing and packaging. Four if you count packing the whole kit and caboodle into as compact a size as possible, to fit into the boot of our very small 'compact' car.

I have about a dozen things on my workdesk to finish off, and if I put a late shift today and tomorrow I might, just might get them completed. But it will be a close run thing.

Next thing on my list is to make a appropriate hat for a lamb which is pulling a little cart. I'm not quite sure what levels of sartorial elegance are appropriate for a lamb's headwear, but I'm leaning towards a pretty little silk cap, tied neatly under the chin and decorated with tiny handmade silk roses to match those on the cart.

I'm sure it won't look too baaaad. *holds head in hands to conceal embarrassment at awful pun*

After that I will rejoin battle with the Jack-in-the-Boxes which are driving me round the bend. Don't even get me started on minuscule 1mm wide brass hinges which ping out of my tweezers at every opportunity and leave me scrabbling around on the floor under my desk trying to find them among the dust bunnies and other assorted detritus. All I will say on the matter is that they've come yay close to being drop-kicked out the window at several points this week and they're not finished yet so that fate might still await them.

After that, if any vestiges of sanity remain, I will complete two little toy dolls which are awaiting their dresses and bustled jackets, wigs and bonnets. This will be a walk in the park compared to the JIB's and might even restore my shaky mental equilibrium.

The floor plans for Saturday have been released on the KDF website, and we are in the Main Hall, up on the stage at the top of the hall, right next to Jamie Carrington, so no pressure there then. We're in exactly the same spot as last year and I quite liked being up on the stage area which was a great vantage point from which to view the fray in the main hall. The downside is that none of the stage stand are accessible to those with walking difficulties or in a wheelchair, which is not so good.

We're dreading the journey up to London, although as we'll be leaving home at 6am(!?) the traffic shouldn't be too bad en route. Negotiating the underground car park at Kensington Town Hall can be a little tricky, then of course there's the wait for a lift to descend into the bowels of the building so that we can ascend to the ground floor. However, I'm not even going to think about any of that today.

Today is all about finishing off that which is capable of being completed and moving on to the next thing.

I'll keep you posted..........

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Working 9 to 5..........

What a way to make a living.....

Yes, even though it's Sunday, the traditional day of rest, I am working. By this time next week the biggest fair in my calendar will be over and next Sunday I will most definitely be doing absolutely NOTHING even remotely work-related.

However, the 6 days between now and KDF will be filled with an increasingly frantic spriral of work, work, WORK. As always, my to do list is unrealistically optimistic and as the days count down towards Friday, which will be a 'packing' day, I will be sloughing off tasks like a snake shedding its skin.

One day I will get the hang of realising my limits. Till then I will subject myself to unrelenting stress, worry and stupidly long working days, trying to attain my self-imposed insanely unachievable goals.

Still, it's not all bad.

Hopefully later today a very nice chap will risk life and limb climbing up to our roof and blocking off the entrance to our soffits, rendering our squirrel haven inaccessible.

Hopefully I will complete the little Jack-in-the-Box toys with no major unforseen problems. I'm particularly looking foward to fitting the hinges, which are 1mm wide.

No pressure there then.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

My guilty secret.......

Tonight I watched X-Factor.

Yes, yes I know...It's a pantomime.

But what can I say... I'd had a lovely dinner, a few glasses of wine, it has been a long week and I needed some R&R. Sadly, Saturday night TV seems to be designed for people who don't have a life.

No matter.

I even perked up a bit when it was revealed that it was Queen week.

I absolutely LOVE Queen. Their songs formed the soundtrack to my formative teenage years. I swooned at Roger Taylor in the 'I Want To Break Free' video, did all the actions to 'Radio Gaga', sang enthusiastically along to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and yes, I too got the lyrics very, very wrong.

I heard:

*Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard.......


*Spare his his wife for he loves sausages....


So I settled back and waited for the carnage to ensue.

Then a terrible, horrible thought struck me. What if John and Edward 'sang' Bohemian Rhapsody. That would be over 8 minutes of toe-curlingly embarrassing, shoot-me-in-the-head NOW, travesty. It's a karaoke black hole at the best of times.

Thankfully we were spared, and instead they did an underwhelmingly mediocre rendition of Under Pressure.

Complete with rapping!?

Poor Freddie must have been pirouetting in his grave. How 'mentors' Roger Taylor and Brian May kept a straight face during the rehearsal period I will never know. Roger was completely mute after Jedward's performance but Brian managed to make a reasonable fist of it.

Some of the best singing 'talent' has already been kicked out, but that's ok because the Great British Public have spoken, and they know what they like.

Call me a curmudgeonly, grumpy old woman (if you dare) but why do we espouse such populist mediocrity in the name of entertainment?

The storm after the storm......

We've taken a real battering here on the East Sussex south coast today. Much worse than yesterday, with gale-force winds and biblical rain lashing the windows.

The rear garden of the house over the road from us faces onto the road and their entire back fence blew down. Two increasingly frustrated chaps spent several windswept hours trying to prop it up with long wooden poles. Each fresh gust of wind just blew it down again.

This was all quite entertaining as a spectator sport, but what goes around comes around and my schadenfreude was rewarded not long afterwards when one of our fence panels snapped with a loud crack and ended up leaning precariously over our recently planted shrubs.

Having mocked the Heath Robinson efforts of the people over the road, we were then forced to perform an emergency 'bodge' of our own, bracing an old wooden pallet up against the panel in an effort to keep it upright. We judged this to be especially urgent as there was no wire fencing behind it (as there is with the rest of the fence) so Small Dog had a ready make escape route, into next door's garden, out onto the road and into potential oblivion.

However, Small Dog hasn't shown much inclination to experience the great outdoors today. She's not keen on wind and rain at the best of times and perhaps she feared being swept up in a vortex.

So, today I've been moderately industrious, working on some new Jack-in-the-Boxes, which I'm hoping to finish tomorrow.

Best laid plans and all that..........

Friday, 13 November 2009

Battening down the hatches.......

It's been a wild and windy day today, but according to the weather forecast, that is as nothing compared to the raging gales which are gearing up to hit the south coast tonight.

We've been warned to anticipate winds of up to 85 mph!

Hopefully the roof will stay on, the shed won't end up in Kansas, and the squirrels won't dare venture out of the woods to cavort in our soffits.

We're planning to go down to the seafront tomorrow to view the huge waves...not TOO closely though.

Friday the 13th - Part 2

Well, I've finished my little rainbow ballerinas and they do look lovely (even if I say so myself).

However rather than having a rosy glow of satisfaction, I feel strangely disgruntled and on edge.

Can't put my finger on why.........perhaps it's the dreadful quality of the light today, or the relentlessly miserable weather.

Might be time to check out one of those SAD lamps I've been promising myself for the past 10 years........

Friday the 13th........

Have been up and actually AT WORK since 7.45 this morning, courtesy of a legion of squirrels line-dancing in the soffits just above the bedroom windows.

It's gone beyond a joke now.

We're hopefully having the access hole blocked on Sunday. So just two more (non) sleeps to cope with. We'll have to execute a two-pronged attack though, with someone stationed in the loft in order to make as much noise as possible, in the expectation of flushing any recalcitrant squirrels out of the soffits BEFORE the hole is blocked off. We most certainly do not want any starving and increasingly desperate squirrels trapped with no means of escape.

I actually can't blame them for wanting somewhere sheltered and cosy today. It's been blowing a gale and the rain is horizontal. Small Dog took one look out of the door this morning and promptly changed her mind, preferring to sit it out in her basket, legs firmly crossed.

Also it's Friday 13th, generally regarded as a particularly inauspicious combination of day and date. If I didn't have a major fair looming next Saturday I'd be sorely tempted to curl up on the sofa and watch old black & white films on TV all day. However, I've made a virtue of necessity, and having been forced out of bed in the near-dark this morning, I've made serious inroads into a new batch of little rainbow ballerinas, which were a huge hit at the Charmandean Fair and sold out. Of course, having spent several days re-stocking, at the expense of other things on my list, I won't sell a single one at KDF. That's just the way of things...... impossible to predict what will sell on the day.

In other news, because I have so much to do for Kensington, I just had to go off on a tangent and work on a little wooden games chest, which in normal circumstances would probably take a month of making prototype after prototype until I get it right. I should just put it on the back burner, get on with other stuff, and revisit it when I'm a bit less pressed for time.

But no.

That would be way too sensible.

Instead I'm going to try to get at least one finished to display at KDF which means a quick trip out shortly to take advantage of the services of a very helpful chap who has a super-duper A3 scanner. It could still all end in tears......

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Received 10 minutes ago...........

Received this heart-rending email just a few minutes ago. I'm such a sucker for a hard luck story but something about it just doesn't ring true. Can YOU spot the things which set alarm bells ringing? Compare and contrast folks...

I knock your door like a beggar
but I'm not really a beggar,
during the war in Ivory Coast, the activities of my father had started to fall
He informed us of his desire to leave the Ivory Coast for Kenya.
He went twice to prepare for our arrival (mom and me). he departed Abidjan on May 5, 2007, it may never return because of
crash boeing 737 kenya airways. he died.

My father was exporting coffee and rubber
Mom is invalid she had an accident before Dad died
I'm not going to school because of all my problems.
I want to leave the Ivory Coast.

The associated of dad control everything since i lost dady, but it does not help us. my late father deposited money into an account. I would like the bank transfer this money to your account so you can allow me to join you. I suggest 30%.
Hope to see you soon. Thank you.
Best Regards.

Sonya Annick Brown, 27 years.

Don't laugh.........

This is not in the least bit funny.

We have squirrels in our soffits.

They appear to have moved in lock stock and barrel and from the racket they're making I'm fairly sure they're assembling flat pack furniture.

Initially, a week or so ago, the noises were quite quiet and tentative, so we thought there were mice in the attic.

Subsequently we revised our opinion and upgraded the status of the rodent threat level to that of rat.

However, even a very large, possibly obese rat wearing hobnail boots wouldn't make as much noise as the squirrels running through the soffits. If we stand in the garden we can actually see the little buggers scampering along the guttering then disappearing into the soffit at the corner of the roof.

Whenever one of them jauntily re-emerges onto the gutter, it sits and waves at us.

We think they are able to squeeze through the hole for the water tank overflow pipe and get into the loft. However as there is thick insulation up there, we shouldn't be able to hear the clatter of their paws and claws so clearly.

Squirrels in the loft is a much worse scenario than squirrels in the soffits as they can cause major damage. Aside from my boxes of precious books in the loft, there are also various runs of electric cables and I worry in case a foolhardy squirrel might take it into its head to chew through one. The thought of instant crispy-fried squirrel is bad enough, but the prospect of a fire starting up there is terrifying.

Unfortunately we can't get up to the part of the roof where they're getting in. It's going to need someone to clamber up onto the single storey sloping kitchen roof, then somehow get a ladder up to the roofline. Hopefully, blocking off the hole into the soffit will stop them but we can't find anyone willing (or foolish enough) to do it.

Small Dog has been worse than useless.

Because she can't actually see the squirrels, her hunting instincts seem to be subdued.
She can hear them though, and sits bolt upright and trembling on the bed when they start cavorting through the soffits, (usually round about dawn, aka stupid o'clock) and occasionally emits a low, rumbling growl. However, our efforts to encourage her to break into full-blown staccato barking fall on deaf ears and she remains resolutely (and uncharacteristically) silent.

I've mooted the idea of putting Small Dog up in the loft and letting her have a sniff around. However she abruptly declined. I suspect this is because, being a literary sort of dog, she is keen to avoid the potential fate of Tom Kitten, who was made into a Roly Poly Pudding.

I have assured her that Samuel Whiskers isn't in the loft but she is unconvinced.

I have tried to encourage her instead to take on the 'hero' role of John Joiner, who was undoubtedly a terrier (albeit with his own tool bag).

However, she claims that she is not keen on the notion of hand tools, and equipping her with her stated tool of choice (chainsaw) is only likely to end in mayhem.

So we are between a rock and a hard place. With a scurry of squirrels cavorting through our soffits without so much as a 'by your leave'.

It's going to be a long day........

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

New AIM blog.....!

Launched literally an hour ago, the new AIM blog is now live!

Not only that, you just might possibly recognise who's featured in the very first blog post.....

Fame (and possibly fortune!) at last.........

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Rant of the day.........

Today started off perfectly well.

I caught up with packaging all outstanding orders, rationalised the stock boxes following the fair, dealt with invoices etc, placed orders for essential supplies and sketched out a plan of campaign for the next 10 days in preparation for KDF.

By late morning we were on our way into town to do a number of errands which should have taken little more than an hour or so.

My good mood wasn't to last long though.

First stop the main Post Office to post the orders. For reasons best known to themselves, the PO recently decided to refurbish the office, which was not in itself a bad thing. However, insanely, they have done away with the two dedicated counters for those wishing to post packages. This means that there is just one (usually monumentally long) queue for everyone, whether they're renewing car tax, asking for Passport Application Forms to be checked, collecting pensions, buying foreign currency, paying bills or posting packages.

Needless to say only 4 of the available 10 cashier points were open, so the wait was long and weary.
I am a seasoned poster of parcels, and my post is always neatly packaged, in strong cardboard boxes, with printed address labels, customs slips correctly completed, and all supporting paperwork present and correct.

However, for some reason, most people seem to think that a paper bag, or black plastic bin liner is sufficient protection when posting a large or bulky item. A few weeks ago I stood in a PO queue while a woman tried to hand over a guitar which was 'wrapped' in a black bin liner (from which the neck of the guitar was sticking out!) with a hand-scrawled scrap of paper to serve as an address label, stuck on with a single piece of sellotape. Naturally the cashier refused to accept it, not on the grounds of the woman's stupidity, but because it posed a health & safety threat to any postal workers who might come into contact with it. He declined to tell her that it would also probably end up in the form of matchsticks, as it had absolutely no protective padding or packaging at all.


So anyway, finally negotiated the PO queue and successfully dealt with my packages (the entire transaction once I got to a cashier took less than 5 minutes)

On to the bank, where again the queue was epic but only two cashier points were open. By this time, I was losing the will to live but stoically shuffled forward till it was my turn.
Time spent in queue 15 minutes.
Transaction time 30 seconds.

Then waited for PP who had her own bank transaction to perform elsewhere. Watched completely implausible teenage Santa and his chavvy Elf handing out flyers to passers by.

On to opticians to view the frames I like from the weekend newspaper colour supplement. Quickly scanned the display racks and couldn't see them, so I helpfully produced the aforementioned magazine and requested help.

'Helpful' Assistant: Hmmm. No, sorry, we don't stock those.

Me: (Righteously) But it says here in the ad that they're available from you.

HA: Oh right. No we don't stock those.

Me: (Taking a deep breath) Ooookayyyyy. Could you order them for me to try.

HA : Oh yes, no problem. What is the code?

Me: (Slightly taken aback) How should I know? They're your frames.

HA: (Resolutely) Can't do anything without the code.

Me: (Patiently) I checked your website this morning and they're shown clearly. Perhaps if you check your own website you'll be able to find the code.

HA: (Triumphantly) We don't have the internet. Sorry.

ME: (With undisguised incredulity) YOU DON'T HAVE THE INTERNET!!!???

HA: (Slightly abashed) No. If you go round to the library they have internet access there. Get a note of the code, come back and we can order them for you.

Me: (Speechless)

Me: (Regaining the power of speech) So, let me get this straight. You want me to do your job for you?

HA: (Blushingly) Errrmmm. Well. Yeah. If you want those frames.

Exit opticians. Walk just round the corner to the Information Centre which has free internet access. Find website, find code, note code, walk back to opticians, provide code, request phone call to inform me when they arrive in store, provide phone number.

HA: (Chirpily) Ok that's all done for you then Ms Morris.

Me: (Heavy sarcasm dripping from every syllable) Thank you SOOOOOO much. You've been extremely helpful.

Exit opticians(again) and fight the rising urge to kick the barely post-pubescent Santa and his Elf having a crafty cigarette in the doorway opposite. A less believable festive pair it was difficult to imagine and I had already declined their offer of a tatty flyer after earlier witnessing Santa clear his throat loudly then spit on the pavement.

Christmas cheer........I think not.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Making a spectacle of myself......

I need new glasses.

Having been short-sighted all my life, I can barely remember a time when I haven't worn glasses to bring the hazy blur into pin-sharp focus. For many years I alternated contact lenses with glasses, but in recent years, since crossing the line from single vision to varifocal, I have found contact lenses to be impractical. My optician assures me that nowadays there are vastly improved varifocal contact lenses but I am not convinced.

A few weeks ago I had a routine sight test, which confirmed what I already knew. My eyesight has deteriorated further and I need new lenses, which means new frames too. As I wear glasses all day every day...they're the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I take off at night so they are subject to a fair amount of wear and tear. Especially as for the past few months I've had to take them off to do any close work. They invariably get lost in the mess on my desk and are subject to all manner of liquid drips and spills, from glue and paint, to white spirit and turps.

So I duly made an appointment at Specsavers, had a very extensive and professional sight test, and emerged blinking, clutching my new prescription to survey the display racks of frames.

Don't get me wrong.

I don't yearn for the days of huge owl-like frames. I had those for several years and looked unnervingly like Deirdre Barlow, complete with poodle perm.
However, as a wearer of varifocals, contemporary frames present a problem as the various fields of vision have to squeezed into a very narrow area, which means that I have to opt for top of the range technologically advanced lenses, which are, of course, frighteningly expensive.

Nevertheless, I browsed the range of frames on offer, enlisting PP's opinion on as many of them as I could until we both lost the will to live and gave up.

Since then I've checked out frames at several other opticians but can't find any I really, really like. And because I wear them day in, day out, I want to have a pair that at least I can live with.

However my need is now pressing, and I'm determined to get organised this week and find something suitable. Fortunately there was an ad in one of the Sunday newspaper colour supplements for frames I quite like in just the right colour so I'm planning a trip to the town tomorrow to try them out and hope my bank balance can cope with the financial hit.

Fair enough..........

Yesterday passed in a bit of a blur, due in no small part to having to get up at 5.30am which really is the middle of the night.

So was Worthing worth it?

I'm pleased to say that it was, thanks in no small part to a very lovely group of miniature club members on a day trip to the fair from the Isle of Wight, who fell in love with several of our key pieces and kept coming back for more. I always feel a special warm glow when keen collectors recognise and appreciate the painstaking attention to detail with which we strive to imbue our miniatures, and they were a really super group of ladies.
So lovely were they that we felt no hesitation in offering to organise a bespoke workshop for them next year, hopefully as part of our 'working holiday mini tours' of various regions of the UK. Having never been to the Isle of Wight before, I'm really looking forward to it!

As Worthing was only my second fair as an exhibitor this year, it was also wonderful to meet and chat to so many of our past students and customers, many of whom I haven't seen for several years. Made me quite feel quite emotional and nostalgic........

I even had the opportunity to wander round the hall and chat with several fellow AIM was good to put faces to names!

So all in all, an excellent and lucrative day, which made the subsequent overwhelming exhaustion completely worth it.

Thankfully, the fair finished at the sensible and civilised time of 4pm, so we were able to pack down, load the car and depart the venue in daylight...just.
After an uneventful journey we arrived home at 6pm to a rabble-rousing welcome by small dog who jumped up and down like a small furry maniac for a full 15 minutes until we were forced to listen to her breathless monologue on what she'd been up to all day, guarding the house and having to forgo her naps in order to remain alert.

The cherry on the icing on the top of the cake presented itself when I checked emails during the course of the evening, to find a flurry of excellent orders, further boosting our feelings of financial felicitation, and a good end to a hard working but profitable day.

In stark contrast, today will be a day of gentle pottering, leavened with a modicum of displacement activity.

Workwise, I have to sort through all our stock boxes and check what we need to create for Kensington in two weeks time.
Plus the whole of the ground floor of the house looks like it's been ransacked, so some low-key tidying is definitely in order.
Aside from that, I'm taking the day off in order to recharge my batteries.

Not unlike a certain small canine of my acquaintance......

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Organised chaos........

It's 6.00pm and needless to say we're still not completely packed and ready.

This is mainly due to the fact that instead of remaining focused yesterday, I decided to completely redesign the labels which decorate the front of the little boxes for our toy dolls packaging.

What possessed me I have no idea.

This meant re-formatting the image, calculating the size to the nearest nano-millimetre, getting the colours EXACTLY right, doing test prints, printing out the new labels, painstakingly cutting them out, placing them EXACTLY in the correct position on the box lids.........

Needless to say it wasn't a five minute job. It took several hours, which quite possibly could have been better spent. However the boxes do now look absolutely fabulous and I'm very, very pleased with them.

The devil is ALWAYS in the detail.

So, as a result, I've been chasing my tail all day today, and finally, all that remains is going through the extensive checklist to see what we've forgotten.

When that final task is done, I can relax for the rest of the evening, although I must have an early night as we have to get up at stupid o'clock tomorrow morning in order to pack the car (in the dark) and set off in order to get to Worthing for 8 a.m.

Small Dog will blink uncertainly in the pre-dawn gloom and grumpily request that we put the light out before we go. She will then snuggle down cosily in her blanky until her designated 'dog sitter' arrives at a much more civilised hour.

This will be my first fair since February, which I had to do with Gorgeous Daughter as Perfectionist Partner was recovering from her cardiac crisis and wasn't well enough to go.
To think I used to do over 20 fairs a year, plus teach classes/ workshops/courses/club projects! I don't know where I used to find the energy.

So, if any blog readers are visiting the Charmandean Fair tomorrow please do stop and say hello. We could do with all the moral support we can get!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Multi tasking like a maniac..........

Feel like I'm spinning plates while juggling, while riding a unicycle.

On ice.

I really want to get most of the fair prep done and dusted today so that I can take it relatively easy tomorrow. Of course it won't work out like that.

I'll still be working at midnight tonight and tomorrow will be more of the same.

I'm desperately trying to do several things at once........
  • Print copies of our new brochure
  • Replace magenta ink cartridge on new printer
  • Dash out to bank for cash float
  • Set up display on dining room table
  • Hunt for stepped display shelves (subsequently found under bed in the spare room covered with dust and cobwebs)
  • Check lights
  • Hunt for spare bulbs
  • Package remaining items (why are there so many of them?)
  • Price everything
  • Make advertising poster
  • Check fair box to see what we don't have enough of (even though it's way too late to replace stuff anyway)
  • Try in vain to keep track of 'to do' lists
  • Add stuff to 'to do' lists which have already been done, purely to give me the satisfaction of ticking them off
  • Decide on outfit
  • Discover outfit needs to be washed
  • Wash outfit
  • Try really, really hard NOT to fall into panic spiral. It's only a fair after all!
  • Put bottle of something cheering into the fridge for later.
These are only the things I can think of. There are many, many more which I won't remember until I collapse into bed later, just before I fall asleep without making a note of them.

WHY do I choose to put myself through this...............?

Abolutely no.........

....slacking today.

I must remain completely focused on the myriad tasks in hand.

So no displacement activity, to time wasting, no sitting gazing out the window....

It's going to be a l-o-n-g day.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Rainbow ballerinas........

I've just finished a new range of tiny little ballerina toy dolls which are available in all the colours of the rainbow......

I really enjoyed making these. Full details are on the website.

I've been doing battle with HTML this morning but finally emerged valiant and relatively unscathed, having succeeded in putting the toy theatre showcase video on the home page of the website. It may not sound like much of an achievement, but every single time I've tried to do anything on the home page the entire thing has disappeared into a virtual black hole. I suspect it's some glitch with the ZenCart software but I am now extremely wary about trying to make any home page changes.
Thankfully this morning, nothing scary happened, and as far as I know the website is still there and working properly *fingers firmly crossed*.

The Victorian Christmas Toy Theatre is also now available to order. Due to the time it takes to make them, I will have to set a cut-off date for ordering in time for Christmas delivery.

So for any orders received after 30th November I cannot guarantee delivery before Christmas, although of course I will do my very best! There is also the joker in the pack of the ongoing postal dispute, which will also have an impact on mail deliveries in the run up to Christmas, so I would recommend ordering as soon as possible to give both me, and the Post Office a fighting chance.

Back to work for me..........gone midday already and I've barely set foot in the workroom yet. Although the mess in there has reached epidemic proportions, and in order to reach my chair I'm having to do a Fosbury Flop over the piles of boxes littering the limited floor space.

It will most likely end in tears....or at the very least a slipped disc.

On Ebay this week..........

I'm not usually very good at sticking to resolutions, but so far so good on my stated intent to list a different miniature toy (complete with video!) on Ebay every Sunday till Christmas.

Ebay and I have had our differences, and there is no question it isn't what it used to be, but we've got a reasonable truce at the moment and I'm using it as a testbed for my foray into the realm of video production.

There are very, very few Ebay sellers who use video on their listings, and I can understand why, but having done 4 showcase videos now, I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it and can start to spread my metaphorical wings slightly.

Anyhoo, you can view my latest listing here *Ebay listing for week ending 8 November*.

In other news, I'm on the final countdown to the Charmandean Fair at the weekend, so all is chaos. I have to accept that many things on my desk are not going to be completed, and that the best way to spend the remaining time is to plan my display and get cracking with packaging, signage, pricing etc.

If you're planning on going to Charmandean, do seek us out and say hello. We're on Stand 32 in the main exhibition hall. There are many top artisans exhibiting, including Trigger Pond, Ellie De Lacy, Annie Willis, Templewood and Sally Reader to name but a few. It's good to see a smaller fair majoring on work by artisan exhibitors in preference to the ubiquitous imported miniatures available at wholesale.

As well as our tiny toys, we will be taking a selection of what remains of our stock of miniature porcelain doll kits, which are being discontinued from the end of this year. There will be bargains to be had!

Hope to see at least some of you blog readers there......

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

New AIM Magazine & Competition....!

The November issue of Artisans in Miniature magazine is now online. Just click on the photo to go straight there.........

But before you go, I thought it was about time I held a competition.

To enter, and have the chance to win a Christmas Marotte Toy, as shown in the magazine, just email me with the following information:

  • On which page numbers of the current (November 2009) issue does my name (Sandra Morris) appear. To have a chance of winning you must find ALL pages - not just one!
Please use this email link above to submit your entry, rather than submitting your answer as a comment on the blog.
All correct entries will be put into a virtual hat, and the winning entry drawn at random.
Closing date for entries is Sunday 8th November so get cracking and good luck!

EDIT : You must find EVERY page on which my name appears. Not just one!

Sunday, 1 November 2009



Diminutive Dolls is pleased to present.......

Ta Dah!